Monday, December 20, 2010
A CHRISTMAS SECRET by Anne Perry
Things aren't always what they seem.
When The Rev. Dominic Corde becomes the interim minister in the 19th century English village of Oxfordshire, he sees the position as an opportunity. The popular long-term minister, Rev. Wynter, is close to retirement.
Wynter is presently on vacation over the Christmas season. If Corde can do his job well, Corde might move on to a better position than the one he came from. He might even end up back in Oxfordshire someday, something he and his wife would like.
That's the set-up for Anne Perry's A Christmas Secret.
The complication is that Corde's wife Clarice finds the body of the obviously-murdered Rev. Wynter in the coal bin. The local doctor wants to cover up the murder. Clarice, especially, works to solve the murder.
Small town ministries never change. I know. I spent twenty-five years ministering in small towns.
Cord visits the shut ins; negotiates the intricate, personal, and sometimes nasty politics of competing small-town groups; and preaches to people most of whom have known each other all their lives.
Not everything is peaceful in small towns. Different small-town subgroups join to support or fight one another, but they are united in one thing. They put on a common front for outsiders. It often takes at least a generation to become an insider in a small town.
And that's the way it is in this book. The murder ties back to secrets many in Oxfordshire know. Only the new minister and his wife are left out. To solve the murder, they have to get to know the people better.
I especially enjoyed the relaxed way Perry describes Oxfordshire and its people.
For me, this story was slight on plot and complication. It might have made a better short story than a novella. But it was like all the Anne Perry Christmas stories I've read so far. It was well-written and true to the season. It was the kind of mystery story one likes to read at Christmas.